verb (used with object), dabbed, dab·bing.
  1. to pat or tap gently, as with something soft or moist: The child dabbed his eyes with the handkerchief.
  2. to apply (a substance) by light strokes: He dabbed the ointment on the rash.
  3. to strike, especially lightly, as with the hand.
  4. to consume (cannabis) by inhaling the vapor of heated cannabis extract oil.
  5. Masonry. to dress (stonework) with a pointed tool.
  6. Western U.S. to throw (a rope or line) in an effort to lasso or catch something: Joe dabbed his rope on the steer.
verb (used without object), dabbed, dab·bing.
  1. to strike lightly; make a dab; pat: She dabbed at the stain on her dress.
  2. to consume cannabis by inhaling the vapor of heated cannabis extract oil. She dabs for a more intense high.
  1. a quick or light blow; a pat, as with the hand or something soft.
  2. a small moist lump or mass: a dab of butter.
  3. a small quantity: a dab of powder.
  4. a dose of cannabis extract oil.
  5. a dance move that involves posing with one’s nose in the crook of a bent elbow at chest level while extending the other arm to the side at or above shoulder level, often performed as a celebratory posture in sports or other competitions.

Origin of dab

1250–1300; Middle English dabben; compare Norwegian dabbe “to shuffle along, walk slowly,” German tappen “to feel along, grope”

Synonyms for dab

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for dabbed

Contemporary Examples of dabbed

Historical Examples of dabbed

  • She dabbed her handkerchief at her eyes, muttered: "My Heavens, what a fool!"

    Good Indian

    B. M. Bower

  • I,' he took out his pocket-handkerchief again and dabbed his face. '

    Little Dorrit

    Charles Dickens

  • Here she dabbed her sister's forehead, and blew upon it a little.

    Little Dorrit

    Charles Dickens

  • Marilou dabbed the moisture from her forehead with the hem of her dress.

  • His lordship frowned, and dabbed his lips with a handkerchief.

    Captain Blood

    Rafael Sabatini

British Dictionary definitions for dabbed


abbreviation for
  1. digital audio broadcasting


verb dabs, dabbing or dabbed
  1. to touch lightly and quickly
  2. (tr) to daub with short tapping strokesto dab the wall with paint
  3. (tr) to apply (paint, cream, etc) with short tapping strokes
  1. a small amount, esp of something soft or moista dab of ink
  2. a small light stroke or tap, as with the hand
  3. (often plural) mainly British a slang word for fingerprint

Word Origin for dab

C14: of imitative origin


  1. a small common European brown flatfish, Limanda limanda, covered with rough toothed scales: family Pleuronectidae: a food fish
  2. (often plural) any of various other small flatfish, esp floundersCompare sand dab
  3. Also called: patiki a sand flounder, Rhombosolea plebia, common around New Zealand's South Island

Word Origin for dab

C15: from Anglo-French dabbe, of uncertain origin


  1. British informal See dab hand

Word Origin for dab

C17: perhaps from dab 1 (vb)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for dabbed



c.1300, dabben "to strike," of unknown origin, perhaps imitative. Modern sense of "strike with a slight, quick pressure" developed by mid-16c., influenced by French dauber (see daub). Related: Dabbed; dabbing. As a noun from c.1300, "heavy blow with a weapon." Dab hand is British slang, 1828, from dab "expert" (1690s), said to be school slang, of unknown origin, perhaps from dab in the "strike lightly" sense.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper